President Nguyen Minh Triet and Swiss President Doris Leuthard inspect the guard of honour upon the Vietnamese leader's arrival in Switzerland. — VNA/VNS Photo Nguyen Khang
HA NOI — Viet Nam and Switzerland have reached a milestone in their almost-40-year-old bilateral ties following President Nguyen Minh Triet's first visit to the western European country.
The Vietnamese leader held talks with his Swiss counterpart, Doris Leuthard, yesterday to discuss economic ties and ways to increase co-operation between the two countries. Both leaders expressed their satisfaction with bilateral co-operation on a wide range of issues.
Since establishing diplomatic relations in 1971, bilateral relations between Viet Nam and Switzerland have steadily intensified. Bilateral trade increased five-fold between 1998 and 2008, amounting to CHF2.7 billion (US$2.39 billion) last year. Switzerland is among the five largest European investors in Viet Nam with foreign direct investment of $1.43 billion by 2009.
During the talks, Leuthard praised Viet Nam's decision to establish a feasibility study for a free trade agreement between the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) states and Viet Nam, which is set to be officially launched today in Geneva during a visit by a Vietnamese deputy minister for trade and industry.
The task of the joint study group is to evaluate the feasibility of a comprehensive agreement between the EFTA states – which include Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland – and Viet Nam.
Leuthard, who is also head of the Swiss Federal Department of Economic Affairs, said the results of the study are expected to be ready within a year.
The two presidents reviewed the status of bilateral affairs and agreed that relations were comprehensive and strong. They welcomed the strengthening of relations between Viet Nam and Switzerland in a wide range of areas, including politics, economics, trade, investment, development co-operation, as well as education and training.
Federal President Leuthard praised Viet Nam's achievements after nearly 25 years of reforms and integration into the global community, and in particular its reduction of poverty and its early achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
The two sides, however, pointed out that their trade and investment co-operation was still lagging behind its full potential. They confirmed plans to create more opportunities for enterprises from both countries to promote business and investment in each other's markets.
Triet thanked the Swiss government for providing Viet Nam with helpful official development assistance that has been used effectively as well as their commitment to continue giving ODA to Viet Nam in the coming years.
Leuthard assured Triet of Switzerland's ongoing support to Viet Nam and said the Swiss would focus more on co-operation and development of an economic partnership, as well as work on hunger and poverty alleviation, co-operation on the environment and continuation of programmes on getting Vietnamese people to study in Switzerland.
The commitment of the Swiss Agency for Development and Co-operation (SDC) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) in Viet Nam totalled more than CHF330 million ($291.7 million).
Triet underlined Viet Nam's desire to further promote trade and investment co-operation, especially in finance and banking – the fields where the Swiss had a great deal of expertise.
Both presidents emphasised the importance of the reform of the education system for sustainable development in Viet Nam and acknowledged that the further development of the country requires that the rule of law be strengthened through a clear legal framework, as well as transparent legislation. The Swiss President welcomed efforts undertaken by Viet Nam in this area.
The two presidents also discussed international issues of common interest, particularly climate change as Viet Nam is likely to be one of the countries hardest hit by the consequences of global warming. Talks also addressed the issue of Viet Nam's experiences as a pilot state for the ‘One UN' reform process, and the universalisation of the International Criminal Court. The two leaders also agreed on intensifying co-operation between the two governments at the multilateral level.
Leuthard commended Viet Nam's active efforts at the international level through its presidency of ASEAN in 2010, its contributions as a member of the UN Security Council and its ongoing efforts to integrate Viet Nam into the global economy following its accession to the World Trade Organisation in 2007. She congratulated Viet Nam on hosting the World Economic Forum on East Asia for the first time in HCM City this month.
The Vietnamese president welcomed the accreditation of a Swiss Ambassador to ASEAN in September 2009 and congratulated Switzerland on hosting the 13th Summit of Francophone nations in October this year in Montreux.
Both presidents expressed their satisfaction with the quality of bilateral dialogue on human rights, which was initiated in 1997. The 8th round of talks on the issue took place last month in Switzerland in a fruitful atmosphere.
President Triet extended an official invitation to the Swiss President to pay a visit to Viet Nam.
Triet concluded yesterday's official visit by meeting the President of the Swiss Council of States, Erika Forster-Vannini, the ‘Friends of Viet Nam' parliamentary group. — VNS